November 20, 2015
In director Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” coats tell a big part of the story, indicating class, character and the distance between two lives.
Starring Cate Blanchett as wealthy wife and mother Carol Aird, and Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet, a young store clerk, the film is an adaptation of crime writer Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt,” about an illicit lesbian love affair.
The romance, daring and dangerous for the 1950s, is made all the more alluring by Costume Designer Sandy Powell’s deft work.
Our first sizzling impression of Carol comes as she’s shopping for Christmas presents at a Manhattan department store where Therese works. Carol exemplifies sophistication, wearing a sweeping mink coat accessorized with coordinating coral gloves, hat and silk scarf. Even her nail polish and lipstick are coral.
With slight exaggeration, Anthony Lane, film critic of The New Yorker, is so taken by the beauty of the movie and its heroines that he writes, “…the mink coat alone is enough to make animal-rights activists purchase a nice set of steel traps and head for the woods.”
Not to worry — no modern minks were harmed in the production of that enormous swath of fur.
“That wasn’t an original,” Powell said. “It’s recycled vintage fur, and it’s blond mink. I knew the shape and color I wanted–I really wanted that pale color and swing shape.”
Powell enlisted New York furrier Larry Cowitt of Henry Cowitt, Inc. to craft it with its swing silhouette, long, vertical pelts, shawl collar and deep cuffs.
In mid-November, the coat and other costumes were put on display at the Arclight Hollywood lobby, where the mink’s radiance cast a long shadow over the adjacent costume–Therese’s nebbishy winter coat, a rough, navy woolen with patch pockets and unsubtle red, white and black knit trim.
“The Therese character hasn’t long been out of college. She has very little money,” said Powell. “My feeling about her was that her clothes and appearance weren’t of the utmost importance to her.”
To bring home the point, the coat, which Powell found in a New York vintage market, is accessorized with a red, green and black plaid scarf and an oversized black, red and yellow beret–which clash badly.
“I naturally coordinate,” said Powell, “so actually, deliberately not coordinating works.”